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Flooding rain threatening lives, property from eastern Texas to Mississippi

By Brett Rathbun, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 11, 2019, 6:26:46 PM EDT

Following multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms and flooding already this week, more heavy rain and thunderstorms are inundating areas from eastern Texas to Mississippi.

A freight train derailed on Saturday after heavy rains and flash flooding washed away the track overnight. At least 20 cars were derailed which left a trail of chemicals.

"Portions of the south-central U.S. have been inundated with flooding rain, large hail and continuous lightning this week, and the threat is not yet over," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.

The fire hose of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will continue to fuel flooding rain from eastern Texas into the lower Mississippi Valley into Saturday night. Localized issues can also unfold farther north in the Tennessee Valley.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency due to the severe weather that impacted the state earlier this week and the flooding rainfall that has followed.

Flooding new May 11

"Copious amounts of Gulf moisture are being drawn northward into an already waterlogged Deep South," Buckingham said.

Already widespread flooding problems are expected to worsen from Houston and Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, through Saturday night.

Before the rain ends on Sunday, there can be an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 16 inches between I-10 and I-20 in southern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana.

Bridges and roads can be washed away in the hardest-hit communities. Streams and rivers may rapidly overflow their banks, and some residents may be forced to evacuate.

Flooding on Saturday morning forced officials to close Interstate 59 near Poplarville, Mississippi. Emergency manager reports several roads and bridges have been washed out in northern Pearl River County with high water rescues underway.

On Friday, the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Louisiana was opened to "relieve pressure on main levels, maintain river stages and regulate the flow downriver from the spillway," according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This marks the 14th time the spillway has been used since 1937 and the only time it has been opened twice during the same high water event, officials stated.

"While the greatest risk to lives and property across the South Central states will be from flooding, a few severe thunderstorms may erupt into Saturday evening," Buckingham said.

In addition to triggering new flash flooding, the strongest thunderstorms may produce damaging winds. Hail and a brief tornado cannot be ruled out.

Much-needed dry weather will finally sweep across most of the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley during the second half of the weekend.

"More rain and thunderstorms can spread from western to southern and central Texas, potentially also grazing southern Louisiana, later Monday into Tuesday, and perhaps persist into Wednesday," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

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Despite the sweep of dry air, river flooding will continue across eastern Texas and across the lower Mississippi Valley through the weekend and into at least early next week.

The Mississippi River can remain out of its banks into June as floodwaters in rivers farther north travel southward along the Mississippi River. Never drive through a flooded roadway. Turn around and find an alternate route.

Unfortunately, AccuWeather predicts more flooding events to occur into the summer.

Recap of severe weather events across the south-central United States this week

This was a busy week of severe weather that marched across the south-central U.S.

Monday, May 6

Severe thunderstorms focused across Kansas, bringing mainly large hail and damaging winds. Hail up to baseball size was reported near McPherson, Kansas.

Tuesday, May 7

Tuesday brought severe weather from western Texas into south-central Kansas.

There were numerous reports of tornadoes across the northern Texas Panhandle. As of early Friday morning, the National Weather Service in Amarillo, Texas, has confirmed six tornadoes across their coverage area, all rated EF0 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

The heavy rainfall from these storms forced a large portion of Interstate 35 in south-central Kansas to close due to flooding.

Outside of the severe weather area, a round of thunderstorms produced between 3 and 10 inches of rain across southeastern Texas. Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb of Houston, picked up nearly 10 inches of rain.

Wednesday, May 8

The ongoing severe event continued to produce heavy rain and flooding across central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City.

Just before midnight local time, The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, confirmed a couple of tornadoes across the region. An EF2 tornado tracked from north of Hobart to Rocky, Oklahoma. An EF1 tornado moved through Newkirk, Oklahoma.

An additional four tornadoes were reported: two in Brazos County, Texas, and the other two in Louisiana.

The flooding turned deadly in Austin, Texas, after a man believed to be in his 50s was swept away by raging floodwaters.

Thursday, May 9

A thunderstorm complex developed across southeastern Texas early Thursday evening, producing hail as large as baseballs, gusty winds and flooding rainfall. Houston was hit very hard.

Houston flood Thu night 5-9-19

Roads were flooded in Houston on Thursday evening. This photo was taken on Texas Avenue under the 59 underpass in downtown Houston. Residents were attempting to make it home following the Houston Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park. (Twitter/Morgan H)

Rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches fell across southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana during Thursday night.

Several roads remain closed in and around Houston and may not be reopened until later in the weekend. Rivers and streams are already near or over their banks.

Earlier on this day, torrential rain inundated the Greenville, Mississippi, area, which caused significant flooding of businesses and prompted water rescues.

During Thursday midday, a flash flood emergency was declared in Jackson, Mississippi, where up to 3 inches of rain fell in only a few hours.

Download the free AccuWeather app to see the temperature forecast and the prospect for rain in your area. Keep checking back for updates on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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